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While some may find the moviemaking style somewhat dated, I personally found THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY ($20) to offer more entertainment value than some of the 2005 summer blockbusters. I grew up watching classic movies and loved every frame of THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY, so I am delighted that this film, as well as the others produced by star John Wayne are finally making their way to DVD. Long absent from view, THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY is the prototypical airline disaster movie that gave rise to films such as the AIRPORT series. Heck, seeing THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY now gives this reviewer an even greater appreciation for the brilliant genre spoof AIRPLANE.

Sure, aspects of the story are pure soap opera and many of the characters are stock, but movie buffs will have to agree that THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY pushes all the right buttons and is certain to keep them on the edge of their seats for nearly two and a half hours. The plot of THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY allows the individual stories of the diverse group of passengers on a transpacific flight to unfold to varying degrees, right up until the point when disaster strikes- with one of the airplane’s engines catching fire shortly after the plane’s fuel supply reaches the point of no return. John Wayne stars in THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY as Dan Roman, the old warhorse copilot, who returns to flying after a previous airline tragedy, which robbed him of his wife and child, and finds himself in the position of taking command, when pilot John Sullivan (Robert Stack) starts to crack under the pressure. The cast of THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY also features Claire Trevor, Laraine Day, Jan Sterling, Phil Harris, Robert Newton, David Brian, Paul Kelly, Sidney Blackmer, Julie Bishop and Pedro Gonzales-Gonzales.

Paramount Home Entertainment has made THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY available on DVD in a widescreen presentation that has been framed roughly at 2.35:1 and enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY looks terrific on DVD; with the restored film elements producing a great looking transfer. Sharpness and detail are pretty darn good for an early CinemaScope film, although there are occasional shots that appear slightly soft. Colors are fairly vivid and don’t display evidence of the temperamental nature WarnerColor nor age related fading. Blacks are pretty accurate, and the whites seem clean. Both contrast and the level of shadow detail are more than respectable for the era in which the film was made. The film elements are virtually free from blemishes and other signs of age, while appreciable grain is held in check. Digital compression artifacts are nicely camouflaged.

For this release, THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY has been upgraded to a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. Most signs of background hiss and noise have been cleaned up in the mastering process, which leaves a generally smooth sounding track. Fidelity has some minor issues, but for the most part, THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY produces a very pleasing sound quality, that highlights Dimitri Tiomkin’s Oscar winning music. Sound effects occasionally make effective use of the outlying channels, but for the most part, the musical component stays at the forefront. Dialogue is crisply rendered and remains totally understandable. An English Dolby Surround soundtrack has also encoded onto the DVD, as have English subtitles.

Full motion video and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, which have been spread across both discs of this set. Disc one includes an introduction by Leonard Maltin, as well as a running audio commentary with Leonard Maltin, the director’s son William Wellman Jr., cast members Karen Sharpe, Pedro Gonzales-Gonzales and Vincent Longo.

Moving on to disc two, one will find the remainder of the supplemental programming. The Making Of The High And The Mighty is composed of the following featurettes: The Batjac Story Part 1 (1951-1963) (15 minutes), Stories from the Set (nine minutes), On Director William A. Wellman (ten minutes), The Music and World of Dimitri Tiomkin (eighteen minutes), Ernest K. Gann: Adventurer, Author & Artist (eighteen minutes), Restoring a Classic (four minutes) and A Place in Film History (eight minutes). A twenty three minute program on the early days of commercial aviation entitled Flying In The Fifties, a Theatrical Trailer, TV Trailer, Batjac Montage, The High And The Mighty Premiere Footage and Photo Gallery close out the supplements.

As far as old style movie entertainment goes, THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY is hard to beat. Paramount’s DVD release of this classic film looks and sounds great. So, if you are a John Wayne fan or just a movie buff in general, you’ll want to add THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY to your own personal film library. Recommended.



The High and the Mighty (Two-Disc Collector's Edition) (1954)



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2005 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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